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VIDEO: For fish, it’s a lifesaver

When Ace Callaway worked as an Alaskan charter captain, he struggled with the problem of barotrauma in deep-water fish brought to the surface. The pressure-related injuries would cause a fish's swim bladder to swell so much that its stomach would be forced out of its mouth.

A study of barotraumas in deep-water game fish by the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Department showed that fatalities could be nearly eliminated if fish were returned immediately to their natural environment. So Callaway dealt with the problem the way any resourceful captain would: He devised his own solution, the BlackTip Catch & Release Recompression Tool.


Click play to watch Callaway explain how to use the BlackTip Catch & Release Recompression Tool.

When deep-water fish are simply released they often can't dive, and they become a target for predators. Even if a fish swims off, that doesn't mean it will live. Callaway says recommended methods for returning fish to depths where they can recompress - such as an upside-down milk crate or a barbless hook with a weight - are cumbersome and not always reliable.

His patented BlackTip Catch & Release Recompression Tool uses a weight to hold the jaws of the device closed on the fish's mouth until it reaches the bottom. When it hits, the jaws open. It is quick and easy to use in conjunction with a hand line, standard downrigger or large rod-and-reel combo, Callaway says. It will work on fresh- and saltwater fish, he says.

For his ingenuity, Callaway's device was named the 2011 West Marine Green Product of the Year, and he won a prize of $10,000. The device is available through West Marine and retails for $49.99.